Parting Is Such Predictable Sorrow

Tim SullivanContributor IOctober 12, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - MARCH 20:  Paul Williams #22 of the Dayton Flyers defends against Devin Ebanks #3 of the West Virginia Moutaineers during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on March 20, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dayton won 68-60. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Nothing gets my embittered heart fluttering like speculating about next spring’s transfer possibilities.  Last season I correctly predicted that Lil’ Stevie Thomas, now a distant memory and the exclusive property of the IUPUI Panthers, would abscond with his pride and eligibility and leave for more obscure pastures.  Thomas, whose scholarship was reassigned to Drake's Josh Parker, headed back home to Indianapolis where playing time will flow like wine coolers at a UD soccer party. His transfer was easy to predict, with both Rob Lowery and London Warren in front of him on the depth chart his playing time would have been severely limited this upcoming season.  Throw in the fact that Brian Gregory owns the domain name, and it’s plain to see that not much would change for Thomas during his senior year. Stevie's decision shouldn’t have come as a surprise to many as there were rumors he considered leaving after his freshman season. As is the case with the vast majority of transfers, chances are it will be an equitable result for both parties.

Excluding his first season at the helm, Brian Gregory’s teams have experienced at least one defection each spring. Outside of Trent Meacham and Norm Plummer, not many were missed.  (Although you could make a convincing case, one that I would agree with, that Desmond Adedeji would have been a constant source of entertainment the likes of which this program is unlikely to ever see).  From a numbers standpoint, the odds dictate that someone will leave at the end of this season. That isn't to say that having players jump ship is necessarily a bad thing. It is simply a systematic result of spreading 200 minutes between athletes who were routinely given an abundance of court time prior to arriving at the U of D.  A Darwinian experiment more or less unfolds each season within the confines of the Donoher Center, only the strong survive.

Which brings us to the matter at hand: which current athlete-student is most likely to pack a bindle and head for parts unknown next season? For those of you who suffer from an incurable case of selective comprehension, please note that I am merely making a case for the most likely candidate.  I am not staunchly forwarding the idea that anyone is leaving the program at the close of business this spring.  Personally, I believe that Gregory has finally found the right mix of players, guys who wholeheartedly buy into his socialist system.  As Swampy mentioned earlier last week on the podcast, future recruits and current players are coming onto campus with eyes wide open.  No one, not even Staten, should anticipate logging 35 minutes a game.  Future players will either buy into what Gregory is selling or they simply won't sign with UD.

That being said, if there's something even remotely wrong with blind, irresponsible speculation I don't want to know about it. Let's quickly eliminate some of the contenders.

  • Seniors  Marcus Johnson, Kurt Huelsman, Mickey Perry, London Warren, and Rob Lowery are in their last years of eligibility.  Obviously none of these players can transfer at the end of the year.  That doesn't mean Marcus Johnson won't be lining up as a wide receiver for Akron next fall.  Seriously, you are telling me that a MAC school couldn't use a 6'3" guy with a 40 inch vertical?  I think we are going to find that Greg Paulus has opened Pandora's box. I fully expect Kurt Huelsman to be penalized four times a game for false starts while suiting up as a tight-end for Eastern Michigan in 2010.

  • Walk-ons  Foxxxy, Zestermann, Nourse and Hendrick.  Nice boys, but non-scholarship guys don't transfer.  Besides, they are enjoying the spoiled fruits of loose association with D1 college basketball players, unabashedly grabbing at sloppy thirds and fourths.  Peter Zestermann (who looks like he should spell his name 'Petr') and Logan Nourse are back for round two. How do we as a collective fanbase feel about this?  Don't you feel like they already had their chance to sit on the bench, shouldn't they step aside and allow some other starry-eyed kids to mop up games? Why not go out with class while at the top of your game like Brad Mac?

  • Chris Wright  There's only two things I am certain of in this life.  One, I will end up penniless and buried in an unmarked grave near a highway.  Two, Chris Wright will be declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior season.  He obviously flirted with the idea last April, culminating in one of the most unnecessary press conferences ever held. Kountry Chris is permitted one opportunity to declare and subsequently pull his name out of the draft, so he is almost guaranteed to do so this spring. In some respects, not putting his name in the hat this spring would be a declaration of failure. Lastly, if Wright was ever considering a transfer, he would have likely done so last year. Considering Wright is chomping at the bit to collect his deserved millions, a transfer would only delay the world his talents. (Note to Chris: There are much better players in the NBA than Cole Alrdrich.)

  • Chris Johnson  Quickly becoming a crowd favorite and the personification of Professor Gregory's roundball philosophy. CJ is UD's "glue" guy, a great athlete who has a bloodhound's nose for sniffing out balls. Considered to be the least heralded member of Dayton's 2008 recruiting class, Johnson is arguably UD's most versatile player. CJ's minutes increased over the course of last season, as his value became more apparent, and we can expect to see him playing around 25 minutes a game this season.  With Marcus Johnson out of the picture next season, and Kountry Chris' possible ill-advised entry into the draft, CJ could become not only the Flyers' best all-around player in 2010-11, but also the program's leader. With the stage set so attractively for Johnson, it's unlikely he would leave Dayton.

  • Devin Searcy  Devin is just starting to develop a semblance of an offensive game.  There can be no doubt that Big Dog deserved to get more minutes after the train wreck of a season Kurt Huelsman had. Who among us isn't surprised that Searcy didn't turn UD's campus into Columbine last year? Nevertheless, Searcy appears to be upbeat about this season and intent on proving that he can contribute on this level. If he was considering leaving, last year's experience would have been more than enough to drive any sane man out of town. Chalk it up, Searcy's a Flyer for life.

  • Matt Kavanaugh and Josh Benson  Benson and Kavanaugh are essentially in the same situation, as both players will have the opportunity to play significant minutes from day one. JB and Kav are not likely to put up gaudy numbers, so UD will presumably remain their best option at the close of the season.  However, the biggest factor keeping these two in the Gem City? The depth chart. With Huelsman finally graduating, the only other post player on the roster will be Big Dog Searcy. Additionally it appears that BG will not be bringing in a serviceable big man with the 2010 freshman class, which will open up a lot of PT for the two freshman next season.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Kav and Benson will be a dangerous tandem for years to come, reminiscent of the Joe Wolf/Michael Cage pairing that spearheaded the Los Angeles Clippers attack during the late 1980s. You fucking heard me, a man can dream.

That leaves us with two possibilities -- Paul Williams and Luke Fabrizius. 

No one could have been more surprised by the amount of playing time Luke Fab got last year than Luke himself. There aren't too many decent D1 programs that would have given a player of Fabrizius' caliber (a one-dimensional shooter that hit 37% of this three point attempts) ten minutes a game last season. Yet, that's approximately the amount of time Brian Gregory granted Luke during last year's campaign (Although to be fair, BG did hold Fab out of most of UD's critical games last season -- the first round matchup with West Virginia being the most prominent example). Put yourself in Luke's shoes for a moment. If you could play 10-15 minutes a game for a top 25 team, just stand around the three-point line waiting for a shot, not have to work for a rebound, all the while getting beat like a death row inmate's penis on defense, would you leave?

Unlike Fabrizius, there was a reasonable expectation that Paul Williams would be a more than capable college basketball player. Recruited by numerous big name programs, Michigan and Michigan State chief among them, Williams came into last season as UD's top ranked recruit. Beset by injuries for most of the year, it's difficult to make a qualified assesment of Williams' promise as a Flyer. Regardless, time waits for no man and Williams' performance this year will go a long way in dictating the direction of his UD future. Coming in with a reputation as a solid perimeter player, Williams struggled mightily with his shot (33% from the field, 26% from three, and 62% from the stripe). If his outside touch fails to improve this year and his playing time stagnates, Paul Willie becomes the most likely Flyer to leave next year. I hope I'm wrong, but I think we all know how unlikely that is.